Following its loss to Destrehan on Friday, Hahnville knew it would be faced with a road trip in round one of the playoffs. The Tigers just didn’t know how far they’d have to go.
Pretty far, as it turns out. Hahnville, the 20th seed in 5A, drew No. 13 Ruston in round one. The two teams will battle at Grambling State this Friday night once the Tigers arrive following what should be an approximate five hour drive.
“It’ll be a business trip, and we’re focusing on that message with our guys,” said Hahnville head coach Daniel Luquet. “You know, they’ve played all of their home games at Grambling, and it’s a chance for our guys to play at a college football field. So that’s a new opportunity for most. We’ve got to have a great week of practice. We’ll enjoy our trip up there, but it’s a business trip, and we’ve got to treat it like that.”
Ruston (5-2) v. Hahnville (5-3) isn’t a traditional round one type of matchup, given the caliber of the two traditional powers. It’s a game one might expect to see on a Thanksgiving week in a normal season – that would usually fall on the season’s quarterfinal week, not in the first round.
“I don’t think either of us were that thrilled to draw the other this early,” Luquet said. “They’ve played a fantastic schedule. I feel we’re better than a 20 seed.”
Ruston’s two losses came to Acadiana and Catholic-Baton Rouge, respectively. It posted wins over Airline, Neville, Woodlawn-Shreveport, Ouachita Parish and West Ouachita, all but one of those by decisive margins (the outlier was a 38-35 triple overtime win at home over Neville).
Hahnville’s faced a steady diet of run-heavy football teams of late, following games against Jesuit and Destrehan. Ruston will follow suit, a traditional I-formation, power running team that bases its passing attack off of play action.
“They’re old school. The fullback is a yard behind the quarterback, the tailback seven yards deep. Dive, power and some counter,” Luquet said. “They run a bootleg or waggle off each run look. They always have good players and this year is no different.”
Among them is running back Ke’Travion Hargrove, a senior and the centerpiece of the offense. Plowing a lane for him is fullback Devian Wilson, a 250-pound junior. Quarterback Jaden Osborne keeps the chains moving both via the pass and his own ability to scramble.
The Bearcats run a 4-2-5, putting a lot of speed on the field behind its front four. Senior linebacker Jordan Williams made one of the bigger plays in the team’s Week 8 win over West Ouachita via a fumble recovery and return for a 50-yard touchdown. Defensive end Jalen Penegar is among the team’s standouts on that side of the ball.
“They’re a fantastic tackling football team,” Luquet said. “They do a great job of running to the football. Their corners are small, but fast and physical. And with a team like Ruston that’s well-coached as they are, you know they’ll be where they’re supposed to be.”
In that game, Osborne picked up some slack for the missing Hargrove, who did not play in the final week due to an aggravated knee injury. Osborne accounted for three touchdowns, two through the air, and totaled 214 yards.
Likewise, for Hahnville, there’s an injury subplot going into this postseason. Luquet said Trey LaBranch, the Tigers’ leading rusher, is day-to-day with a foot injury suffered in the second quarter of Friday night’s game against Destrehan. If LaBranch cannot play, Cole Villasenor would likely start in his place.
Luquet said to slow Ruston, the Tigers have to make them earn everything offensively. Eliminate the big gains and force the Bearcats to go 15 plays, and the odds increase that you can make a drive-killing play.
“It’s hard to march for 14 or 15 plays in high school football without a penalty here or there, or a negative play,” Luquet said. “At the end of the day, we have to take care of business on our end and play Hahnville football, the way we know how.”